For three mornings in a row last week, my little girl Lali woke up as angry as a hornet. On the third morning of fury, exhausted from her highly charged storm clouds, I wept openly in front of her. It happened spontaneously as I allowed her to bring me to my breaking point.
About 30 seconds in, I became conscious of my impact on her. She was crying too, in a calm and quiet way, observing me. And then the clouds lifted for both of us. We were able to hug and connect, to recover. The rest of the morning was smooth, happy even.
Hearing about my difficult week, my best friend Alana sent me this cheat sheet for when our children get angry. The tips were a great reminder for me to come back to consciousness with Lali. I quickly realized they were also the perfect tie-in to deep listening for leaders.
It’s not the first time I’ve borrowed from education and parenting to write about leadership.
Parenting and leadership are excellent arenas to practice consciousness for the sake of better outcomes at home and at work.
Earlier in the week, my colleague Monica Callon and I had coached a leadership team. We’d focused part of our session on a fundamental coaching skill—deep listening, at three levels¹, to improve their leadership effectiveness. It struck me that the cheat sheet is a good supplement to our work with our leaders on listening.
The next time your colleague or child gets angry, or even slightly irritated, try these:
- Use your Pause Button. Stop what you’re doing; drop your agenda, just for now, and breathe. This will give you a few seconds to choose how to respond.
- Choose love. Make the conscious choice not to act while you’re triggered.
- Change your mind. Reframe mentally. Use a mantra to talk yourself down and reshape your perceptions, so your mind turns off its alarm system. Maybe remind yourself of some wonderful things about your child/colleague to put this current “offense” into perspective.
- Choose to see things from the other person’s perspective. This is the key to being able to understand another person’s anger. In any disagreement, each person thinks they’re right. Consider how they could, indeed, be right. And maybe even consider how this situation, as awful as it may feel, is a perfect ally for your own growth.
- Acknowledge your child’s/colleague’s perspective, even if you don’t agree with it. Rage doesn’t dispel until it feels heard.
- Open your heart. Connect, and wait until your child/colleague feels heard, long before you make your own points or correct.
Yep. I said it. Love!
Maybe you don’t think love has a place in the workplace?
And I’d say this.
How can you truly lead without it?
P.S. As I press send on this post, we’re still having some stormy weather on the home front. I got coaching on it today and left my coaching session with a big tweak to the above list. My coach encouraged me to “feel my feelings all the way through”, even in front of Lali. That would have meant continuing to cry until all my tears dried up instead of cutting them off to protect her. This doesn’t come easy to me (and to many of you) as I have learned to be in control of my emotions and keep them hidden. Perhaps a part two will be in order after my homefront experiments!
¹ Email me if you want our handout on Levels of Listening.